Azure Files and AD DS – Part 2

Azure Files and AD DS – Part 2

Hi there and welcome to the second post in my series about Azure Files integration with AD DS. In the first post I gave an overview of the service, the value proposition, its current limitations, and described the lab I’ll be using for this post. For this post I’ll be walking through the setup, examining some packet captures and Fiddler captures, and touching on a few of the gotchas I ran into.

Before I jump into the technical gooey goodness, I’m going to cover some prerequisites.


One obvious factoid is you’ll need a Windows AD domain up and running and the machine you connect to the share from will need to be joined to that domain. One disclaimer to keep in mind is you have a multiple Windows AD forest scenario, such as an account and resource forest, you’ll need to be aware of which domain you’re integrating the Azure File share with. If you integrate it with a resource forest but have your user accounts in the account forest, you’ll need to use name suffix routing. I’m not going to go into the details of name suffix routing, but if you’re curious you can read through this article. The short of it is the service principal name associated with the computer or service account used to represent the Azure Storage account the file share is created on uses the domain of When performing the Kerberos authentication, the domain controller in the account forest wouldn’t know how to to direct the request to the resource forest because that domain will not be associated with your resource forest. For this lab I created a Windows AD domain with the namespace jogcloud.local

You will also need to ensure that you are synchronizing the users and groups from your Windows AD domain you want to be able to access the Azure File share to Azure AD. The tenant you synchronize to must be the same tenant the Azure subscription containing the Azure Storage account is associated with. Don’t worry about why right now, I’ll cover that later. For this lab I’ll be using my tenant.

Logical Layout

To store those wonderful files you’ll need an Azure Storage account. The storage account should be created in the same region (or closest region if on-premises) to the clients that will access the file share. This will ensure optimal performance and avoid cross region costs if your clients are in Azure. You can use either a storage account with the standard GPv2 (General Purpose v2) SKU or Premium FileStorage SKU if you need better performance and scale. For this lab I’ll be using the GPv2 SKU.

Lastly, networking requirements. Like all Azure PaaS offerings, Azure Storage is by default available over the public Internet. Since no sane human being wants to send SMB traffic over the public Internet, you have the option of using a private endpoint. For this lab I’ll be going the private endpoint route.

So prerequisites are now set, let’s jump into the setup.

Integrating Azure Storage account with Windows AD

The first step in the process to get this integration working is to get the Azure Storage account you’ll be using setup with an identity in Windows AD. A kind human being over at Microsoft wrote a wonderful Azure PowerShell module that makes what I’m about to do a hundred times easier and is the recommended way to go about this. I’m not going to use it for this demonstration because I want to walk through each of the steps in the process to better your understanding of the magic within the module.

Before you run any commands you’ll need to ensure you have the PowerShell modules below installed. You can validate this by running Get-Module -ListAvailable to display the PowerShell modules installed on the machine.

Now we need to create the security principal that is going to represent the Azure Storage account in Windows AD. You have the option of either using a traditional service account (user account) or a computer account. My advice is to use a service account since it’s a more traditional pattern for this type of use case and it’s more likely your organization has processes built around the lifecycles of service accounts than it is computer accounts.

One important thing to note here is you need to treat this just like you would a traditional service account. By this I mean you will want to create the account with a non-expiring password and put in appropriate controls to perform a controlled rotation of the credential to avoid service disruption.

Here I’ve created a service account with the name azurestorage and have set it with a non-expiring password.

Service account for Azure Storage account

Next up I’m going create a SPN (service principal name) for the service account. The SPN is going to identify the Azure Storage account to Windows AD and instruct the user’s system which service it needs to obtain a Kerberos ticket for. The SPN is going to use the CIFS service class and include the FQDN of the Azure Files endpoint on your storage account. It will look like cifs/ You can register the SPN using the setspn -S <SPN> <ACCOUNT_NAME>. The -S switch will validate there the SPN is not already registered to another security principal in the domain.

Setting the SPN

So you have a service account and an SPN. Now you need to create a credential in Azure Storage and associate that credential with the service account. To create that credential you’ll need to hop over to PowerShell and connect to Azure. Once connected you’ll use the New-AzStorageAccountKey and Get-AzStorageAccountKey cmdlets to create and retrieve the storage account key used for the integration. It’s important to note that this key (named kerb1 or kerb2) is only used to setup this integration and can’t be used for any control or data plane operations against the storage account.

Configure the service account with this key as its password.

Creating the account key

The last piece in this step of the process is to enable the AD DS feature support for the storage account. To do this you’ll use the Set-AzStorageAccount cmdlet using the syntax below.

Set-AzStorageAccount syntax

All of the inputs between Name and ActiveDirectoryAzureStorageSid can be obtained by using the Get-ADDomain cmdlet as seen below.

Get-ADDomain Output

The ActiveDirectoryAzureStorageSid parameter can be obtain by using the Get-ADUser cmdlet as seen below.

Get-ADUser Output

Once you have the inputs, you’ll plug them in Set-AzStorageAccount cmdlet. If successful you’ll get a return similar to below.

Set-AzStorageAccount Output

If you’d like you can confirm the feature is enabled you can do that with the steps documented here. The AzFilesHybrid module I mentioned earlier also has some great debugging tools as outlined here.

Now that the integration is complete, I need to create a file share and configure authorization at the management plane. There are two separate layers of authorization occurring, one for access to the file share itself and the other for access to the files and folders within the file share. Access to the share itself is controlled by Azure RBAC and thus controlled by the Azure management plane. There are three roles built in roles provided that should service most use cases and these are:

  1. Storage File Data SMB Share Read which allows read access to the file share over SMB
  2. Storage File Data SMB Share Contributor which allows read, write, and delete access over the file share over SMB
  3. Storage File Data SMB Share Elevated Contributor which allows read, write, delete, and modify of Windows ACLs of the file share over SMB

You are free to design your own custom roles, but those three built in roles are pretty much spot on as to what you’d see in your typical Windows File share-level permissions.

The second layer of authorization is controlled by the Windows ACLs (access control lists) associated with the share, files, and folders. These are your classic Windows ACLs you know and love and will be enforced by the Windows OS.

Just like on a traditional Windows file share, the most restrictive of controls will apply. This means if you’ve only been granted the Storage File Data SMB Share Read role, it won’t matter if you have full permissions in the Windows ACLs, you will only be able to read and will not be able to write.

Let me demonstrate this.

Here I have assigned the Bob Gray user the Storage File Data SMB Share Reader role on the stjogfileshare storage account. Bob Gray is Domain administrator on the jogcloud.local Windows AD domain and is a local administrator on the member server.

Role Assignment on Storage Account

As seen below I’m able to successfully map the shared folder, but I’m unable to create folder on it because the management plane is restricting my access.

Unable to created a folder when holding Read RBAC role

Running the klist command on the machine shows I successfully obtained a Kerberos ticket for file share.

klist Output

The packet capture I ran when I mapped the share shows in the SMB conversation that the client and server are using the negotiate protocol (which includes the Kerberos protocol).

Session Negotiation

After the Kerberos ticket is obtained from the domain controller the client sets up the session with the storage account.

Session Setup

From this point forward, the encryption capabilities of SMB 3 are used to encrypt the session between the client and Azure storage account.

Note that the Kerberos encryption algorithm being used is RC4-HMAC. This is an important limitation to take note of in that the AES algorithm is not yet supported. If you have internal security policies that prohibits the use of RC4-HMAC and have created a group policy to block its use, you will not be able to connect to the service. What you’ll experience if that is the case is the share will not be accessible. If you do a packet capture you’ll see the Azure Storage account throw a KRB Error: KRB5RB_AP_ERR_MODIFIED indicating the Azure Storage account was unable to validate the ticket that was passed because it doesn’t support the encryption algorithm used to secure it.

I went through and created a group in Windows AD named engineering and added Bob Gray to it. I then removed the Storage File Data SMB Share Read role assignment for Bob Gray and created a role assignment for the engineering group for the Storage File Data SMB Share Contributor role. I’m now able to create files and folders on the share as seen below.

Creating folder on share

Bringing up the permissions on the folders you’ll observe that that are a few default permissions which come out of the box. You can modify these default permission if you’d like (for example by removing Authenticated Users Read/Modify which is overly permissive). You do this by mounting the share as a super user using the standard storage keys. The process is outlined here.

Default permissions

That is pretty much all there is to it to the technical configuration.

So when you use this service what are some of the best practices that I would recommend?

  1. Use a service account instead of a computer account. Your enterprise is more than likely more adept at handling the lifecycle of service accounts and managing the password is far easier.
  2. Ensure you rotate the password at whatever interval aligns with your organizational security policy and any laws and regulations you may be subject to.
  3. When you create your Azure RBAC role assignments, use synchronized groups vs synchronized users. You do this for the same reason you would on-premises, granting access per user is not scalable.
  4. Dedicate the storage account you use for the file share to only file shares. Storage accounts have fixed limits that are shared across blobs, queues, tables, and files. You don’t want to get into a situation where you have to share those limits.
  5. Do your research to determine if Premium FileStorage makes more sense than GPv2. It’s more costly but provides better performance and scale.
  6. Try to deploy one file share per storage account if possible to ensure you get the maximum IOPS available for that file share. You can certainly put multiple file shares in the same storage account, but they will share the total IOPS available for the storage account.
  7. Ensure you are replicating files to another storage account. Unlike blobs, you can’t read from the second region if you’re using a RA-GRS storage account. If you’re using the Premium Files SKU, the storage account will only support LRS and ZRS which makes this replication to a storage account in another region so important. You could use AzCopy, PowerShell, or Azure Data Factory.

That’s it folks! Hope this post helped you understand feature that much better.

Thanks and see you next post!

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